family law mesa az

 

Is Equal Parenting Time Better?

I am a divorce lawyer licensed in Oregon and Arizona. In Oregon, if both parents do not agree to joint custody, it will not be awarded. Oregon favors sole custody and the stability that comes from having one parent be the primary parent.

Arizona strongly favors joint custody with respect to both legal decision making and shared parenting times. While each state allows for the "best interest of the child" to trump the state's particular preference, all families and outcomes seem influenced by the State's preference.

A USA today article illustrates that the trend across the country is moving to equal parenting time arrangements and joint custody. The article cites three main reasons for the change:

First, gender roles have converged, and more men are caretakers.

Second, polls show that large majorities of Americans support the concept of shared custody.

Third, the movement has, in part, been fueled by the fact that over the last 30 years, courts have given custodial parents more powers, Holstein said, leaving non-custodial parents frustrated and energizing a backlash.

While these are interesting reasons, none are evidence based claims that this arrangement is actually better for children. Sometimes, especially in cases of young infants, I have really struggled with whether this truly is the best arrangement. Also, in an increasingly mobile society, joint custody often means parents are literally unable to move closer to extended family following a divorce, leaving once spouse isolated.

However, a quick search seems to indicate that the evidence does suggest that equal parenting time may be the best arrangement for families absent abuse or addition. A Psychology Today Article sites two recent and comphrehensive studies that indicate equal parenting time reduces conflict between the parents, the children perceive the reduction in conflict, and that parents experience reduced stress when sharing parenting responsibilities. Additionally, children's wellbeing seems closely ties to the stregnth of attachment to caregivers, which is directly correlated to the amount and quality of time with each.

While equal parenting time is not possible in all cases, and is certainly not ideal in all cases, it does seem that when possible, with two good and committed parents, everyone involved benefits from equal parenting time arrangements. What do you think? In your experience has equal time worked well?